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By Joe B.
From February 14th to the 19th, HEAT Fans will have the opportunity to enter the Miami HEAT x The Shoe Surgeon Jordan 1 Sweepstakes. Follow the official Instagram pages of the Miami HEAT, @MiamiHEAT, Court Culture, @CourtCulture, and The Shoe Surgeon, @TheShoeSurgeon, if you have not already done so. Then, find the photo posted on the official Instagram page of Court Culture, @CourtCulture on February 14, 2018 at approximately 3:00 p.m. EST that is marked with #HEATVICE, and, from your public, unlocked Instagram account, comment on that photo with your US shoe size. Once you successfully follow the three (3) Instagram accounts and comment on the photo as described in the preceding sentences, you will be automatically entered to win. Rules.
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Glenn James
The Miami HEAT face the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Center. The HEAT fell to the 76ers 103-97 in their last meeting on Feb. 2. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you take away from Miami’s comeback bid to the Toronto Raptors?
Couper Moorhead: That the Raptors are every bit as good as both their record and their advanced metrics would indicate. They’re as good and balanced a team as there is in the Eastern Conference. There’s actually not as much to say about Miami’s late run after being down by as much as 17 points – the HEAT play hard, which we already know, and the Raptors probably started milking the clock a little bit too soon as they took a ton of shots just before the buzzer with the sizeable lead.
We can, however, highlight the play of Goran Dragić, who poured in 16 points in the third quarter. The HEAT are still clearly figuring out their rotations with the added depth they picked up at the trade deadline – and with injured players on the mend all the same – so it’s good to see Dragić maintain his aggressiveness even as the lineups around him are somewhat in flux.
Also, take note of that play Erik Spoelstra ran down five points in the final minute. Miami didn’t necessarily need a three, but Spoelstra essentially put the ball in the hands of Bam Adebayo to both run a tight pick-and-roll and then make a perfect pass to Wayne Ellington in the opposite corner. That’s not a play many coaches would run for a rookie guard, much less a center who rarely handles the ball like that. It was a beautiful play.
Joe Beguiristain: The HEAT just kept on fighting.
While we’ve seen Miami storm back in multiple games this season, there’s something to be said about the moxie and grit the team has shown time and time again regardless of the circumstances.
After Goran Dragić went off for 16 points early in the third quarter and Toronto responded with a massive run to end the period, it would have been easy to pack it up and get ready for the second night of a back-to-back against the 76ers.
But that’s not how the HEAT are wired.
Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington hit some timely buckets in the fourth, while Bam Adebayo absorbed a lot of contact inside and kept the ball moving with three assists in the period. As such, Miami went on a 13-0 run late to cut the deficit to 112-109 and actually got it within two points a little later.
While the Raptors ended up with the victory, the HEAT certainly made them earn it.
2: What did we learn from the previous matchup with the 76ers?
Couper: For one, the 76ers are big. Even though they play so many versatile, flexible lineups without having to sacrifice too much shooting – their starting lineup has been one of the very best in the entire league – Philadelphia manages to stay big throughout, often outsizing Miami and leaving a number of mismatches on the floor. The HEAT are usually quite good at combating those natural disadvantages by fighting passing lanes and limiting access to those matchups, but it’s an important layer of this matchup nonetheless.
The flip side of this is that Miami’s bench held a similar advantage, with Kelly Olynyk (not playing Wednesday night) a plus-11 in the last game as a substitute. Without Olynyk and with Miami’s bench unit still learning how to play together since adding Dwyane Wade, especially now that the 76ers added some much-needed shooting in the form of Marco Bellineli, we might not be able to expect those same numbers, but that’s where things stood last time out.
Joe: We learned that the 76ers are as good as advertised.
After years of “trusting the process”, Philadelphia is expected to make it into the playoffs with both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid now fully healthy. And based on the team’s play of late, it seems as though that might come to fruition.
Thanks to the Simmons/Embiid duo and Dario Šarić, the 76ers have won five of six and are the seventh seed at 29-25. With Miami holding onto the final playoff spot in the East, this matchup is obviously important.
In terms of how that last meeting went, the HEAT had some trouble with Philadelphia’s size for most of the night, but made a run in the fourth quarter to get within four points. During the comeback, Bam Adebayo really turned some heads with his passing ability and ran the offense on a handful of possessions down the stretch.
We’ll see what happens this time around.
3: How can the HEAT better avoid going down by double digits to Philadelphia?
Couper: While allowing 35 points in the third quarter is never going to be part of Miami’s winning plan – they want to keep teams around 18-25 points per quarter depending on the pace of play – it was the HEAT’s own 37 combined points between the second and third quarters that wound up costing them (even as they would score 37 in the final period). Part of that was Miami having a weirdly off shooting game, but there haven’t been too many games where they’ve been able to come out on top despite scoring less than 20 in multiple quarters.
Remember that 76ers size we talked about? Miami was limited to just 36 points in the paint last time out while Philadelphia scored 60 behind the relentless attack of Ben Simmons (who doesn’t even have much of a jumper yet). Cold shooting or not, getting into the paint is usually a much larger part of the HEAT’s blueprint to success.
Joe: Although Miami struggled to put the ball in the hoop in that last matchup, the real issue was on the defensive end. In Philadelphia’s 35-point third quarter that Coup mentioned above, Simmons put pressure on the HEAT by getting into the paint and either scoring himself or setting up his teammates.
To combat that, the HEAT’s defensive rotations will have to be quicker when Simmons forces the bigs to collapse or attacks a switch. Of course, all of this is easier said than done, but Miami understands what it has to do in order to be successful.
Feb. 2 – HEAT at 76ers
March 1 – 76ers at HEAT
The HEAT are 30-27 on the year. The 76ers have won five of six and enter the contest at 29-25. This is the last game for both teams before the All-Star Break. Joel Embiid leads Philadelphia in points (23.7), rebounds (11.1) and blocks (1.8) per game.
HEAT Offense: 103.1 (25) HEAT Defense: 104.4 (8) 76ers Offense: 105.4 (14) 76ers Defense: 102.6 (3)
By Joe B.
Photo Credit: Ron Turenne
The Miami HEAT face the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. The HEAT defeated the Raptors 90-89 in their last meeting on Jan. 9. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 6:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: As far as on the court, how did the return of Dwyane Wade go against the Milwaukee Bucks?
Couper Moorhead: In many ways Wade’s return wasn’t the story of the game, or at least how the game was won. That designation belonged to Miami’s continued successful defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo, who shot 8-of-21 and never get into any sort of rhythm with James Johnson, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow stone-walling his drives and the rest of the HEAT’s defenders pinching off the paint. Wade might have saved the game with a block in transition on Eric Bledsoe, but otherwise this was very much an introductory performance for him.
That said, the introduction was encouraging. Nobody is expecting Wade to come out and score 20+ a game, but the relevant question following the trade was how he was going to fit in with a team very much built on a balanced scoring attack. In that sense, Wade taking just six shots and focusing his efforts on finding teammates, rather than feeling pressure to shoulder the offense on his own, was as positive a sign you can find from a game like this. Not only that, but Josh Richardson (12 shots) and Tyler Johnson (16 shots) clearly not feeling a need to defer to the legend, as they would have two years ago, spoke volumes about where they are as players.
There will still be some awkward moments as the team gets acclimated to having such a prolific player again, but everyone so far has both done and said the right things about fitting together.
Joe Beguiristain: The return of Wade went about how you would expect for someone trying to reacclimate to the HEAT’s system. The skills he’s always had were on full display, as the 36-year-old threw up some perfect lobs and came through with a clutch block on Eric Bledsoe as the former Kentucky Wildcat was trying to cut into Miami’s narrow lead. At the end of the day, Wade did a nice job of fitting in and giving the HEAT yet another playmaking weapon. As he gains more chemistry with the guys, things should look even better.
In terms of the game as a whole, Miami played very well on the defensive end and held Milwaukee to just 42.1 percent shooting on the night. As Coup mentioned above, it took a collective effort from Bam Adebayo, James Johnson and Justise Winslow to stifle the Greek Freak.
2: What’s been behind Toronto’s success this season and what did we learn from Miami’s previous victory over them?
Couper: Explaining why Toronto is good is one of the easiest things in the league these days. Riding a philosophical shift in play style, with more threes, pace and fewer isos, a pair of stars at the heights of their game (DeMar DeRozan in particular has taken his game to a new level) and one of the deepest rosters in the league the Raptors are a Top 5 team on both offense and defense, sporting a net rating that trails only Houston and Golden State. They’re good, and they’re for real.
Miami still beat the Raptors last time out at their place thanks to a Wayne Ellington layup in the final seconds, and that was with the HEAT shooting just 4-of-22 from three. With Kyle Lowry out, it was a defensive slugfest all night as the HEAT slowed the game to a crawl and threw one defender after another at DeRozan (10-of-29 shooting. Most importantly, the HEAT bested most of Toronto’s bench configurations – crucial for any team that wants to hang around with the Raptors.
Joe: If you thought the Raptors were good last season, think again.
Thanks to one of the best second units in the league and a fantastic season from DeMar DeRozan, Toronto is currently the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
After primarily taking mid-range jumpers throughout his career, DeRozan has expanded his game and added the three-point shot to his arsenal. In fact, the 28-year-old has already taken 68 more threes than a year ago and is on pace to shatter his previous high of 210 attempted treys in 2013-14. While the bulk of his shots still come from mid-range (where he’s shooting 44.4 percent), DeRozan’s ability to knock it down from beyond the arc makes him tougher to guard night in and night out.
When you combine DeRozan's improved play with the fact that the Raptors’ most-used second unit of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl has a 32.8 net rating, you start to see why the team is a force to be reckoned with.
3: With Wade in and Kelly Olynyk out for the next couple of days, how do you see Miami’s rotation playing out?
Couper: There’s no easy answer to this question, in part because with Olynyk being such an important part of Miami’s rotation the short term is simply about getting through the next two games with whatever lineups look the best on the given night. Long term, with Wade and Luke Babbitt added, Olynyk hopefully on the mend and Rodney McGruder returning soon-ish (he went through a full practice on Monday), the HEAT suddenly have more capable rotation players than they have regular rotation spots to fill. The only way we can know it will play out is similar to the beginning of any Erik Spoelstra season, where he will experiment with different groups until he lands on something that works.
Joe: While Kelly Olynyk’s absence is huge, the HEAT were able to make it work against the Bucks on Friday. But with him also out on this upcoming back-to-back before the All-Star Break, things will be tougher. In his stead, we could see Luke Babbitt get some burn off the bench to stretch the floor for Miami.
If I had to guess, I’d say Erik Spoelstra will roll with the same starting lineup as on Friday (Goran Dragić-Tyler Johnson-Josh Richardson-Justise Winslow-Hassan Whiteside) and allocate minutes based on feel/player production.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
Jan. 9 – HEAT at Raptors
April 7 – HEAT at Raptors
The HEAT are 30-26 on the year. The Raptors have won seven of eight and enter the contest at 39-16. Josh Richardson is one of five players in the league to record at least 70 steals and 50 blocks this season. DeMar DeRozan leads Toronto in scoring at 23.9 points per game.
HEAT Offense: 102.9 (25) HEAT Defense: 104.2 (8) Raptors Offense: 110.5 (4) Raptors Defense: 102.6 (3)